Last week’s NBA Finals exhibited two differing approaches to building a winning team: the Miami Heat through Free Agency and the Oklahoma City Thunder through the draft. For teams not named the Heat, the draft has been the most effective way to put together a winning roster. Let’s take a look at how each team fared in the draft.
Atlanta Hawks: D
Drafted Players: SG John Jenkins (23), PF Mike Scott (43)
The Hawks were the 5th best three-point shooting team in the league last season, so why they decided to draft a one-dimensional three-point shooter rather than addressing PG depth or rebounding, which were issues last year. Tony Wroten Jr. or Arnett Moultrie could have been better picks here.
Boston Celtics: B-
Drafted Players: PF Jared Sullinger (21), C Fab Melo (22), SF Kris Joseph (51)
Reports earlier this week claimed the Celtics were targeting Royce White, but he didn’t last until the Celtics first pick at 21. Sullinger could be a great pick for them if his health issues aren’t as serious as they’re made out to be. He could be a better version of Glen Davis, who had success with Boston. But again, the medical issues mean the risk of the pick is high. Melo is a big bodied defender and rebounder. He could play a similar role as Kendrick Perkins did for years, but his limited offensive game could hold him back.
Brooklyn Nets: D-
Drafted Players: PG Tyshawn Taylor (41), F Tornike Shengelia (54, from 76ers), PF Ilkan Karaman (57)
The Nets get this low grade for their pre-draft moves than the picks themselves. Trading what eventually became the 6th pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace, who just opted out of his contract, was a terrible and inexcusable trade. As for the draft itself, Taylor has all the skills to be a good NBA player, but his decision making could be worse than Nets’ GM Billy King. The two European picks will likely be stashed overseas and won’t likely make an impact in the NBA.
Charlotte Bobcats: B+
Drafted Players: SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2), G Jeffrey Taylor (31)
MKG is a great pick for the Bobcats and he could really help create a winning culture and infect his teammates with his passion and drive to win. The only drawback is that the Bobcats have no alpha dog on their current roster and that is not a role Kidd-Gilchrist is ready to fill, given his developing offensive game. Not having other solid players around him will reduce MKG’s impact, but he’s the type of player that people want to play with, so he could help attract Free Agents to get those solid players.
Chicago Bulls: A-
Drafted Players: PG Marquis Teague (29)
While Teague is no Derrick Rose, he could help fill the void and weather the storm the Bulls will face in Rose’s absence. And getting him at 29 is great value, as many analysts believed Teague could be a top-10 pick next year. Chicago could have used a shooter in the draft, but Teague could be a valuable backup PG for them for years to come.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A
Drafted Players: SG Dion Waiters (4), C Tyler Zeller (17, from Mavericks)
Waiters was a surprising pick, but not necessarily a bad one. The quick rise in his stock and higher-than-expected draft position reminds me a lot of Russell Westbrook’s situation back in 2008 and the Thunder look like geniuses for that pick. Waiters gets a lot of comparisons to Dwyane Wade, but I see a lot of Tyreke Evans in his game. They body shape is similar and the strength going to the rim are comparable. Asking Waiters to play SG instead of PG, as Evans was asked to do, will also allow him to be himself more and reach his full potential. His toughness fits well alongside the finesse and quickness of Kyrie Irving. Trading for Zeller was also a nice move. He won’t be a great center, but he can rebound, shoot, and run the floor. At worst he could be a serviceable rotation player.
Dallas Mavericks: C
Drafted Players: SG Jared Cunningham (24, from Cavaliers), C Bernard James (33, from Cavaliers), F Jae Crowder (34, from Cavaliers)
Jason Kidd is a Free Agent and Deron Williams not certain to join the team next year, the Mavs could have used some insurance at the PG spot. Wroten and Teague were still on the board and could have been useful picks for the Mavs. But Cunningham can score of the dribble and Crowder, although undersized, has a high motor and could make a Kenneth Faried type impact for this team. James is already 27, so his age makes him a less valuable commodity.
Denver Nuggets: B-
Drafted Players: SG Evan Fournier (20), SF Quincy Miller (38), C Izzet Turkyilmaz (50)
The Nuggets are already a team full of talented wing players, so being able to keep Fournier overseas keeps their lineup from getting too crowded, especially because Miller could be another wing used in that lineup. Once considering a top-10 talent, concerns about his ACL injury caused him to slide. If he can live up to his potential, he could be great for them. Getting Miller in the 2nd round was really good value. While stashing Fournier is nice, his skills may not translate well to the NBA. A proven player like Sullinger, even with his injury risks, could have had a more immediate impact.
Detroit Pistons: B+
Drafted Players: C Andre Drummond (9), SF Khris Middleton (39), SG Kim English (44)
I think Detroit has to be pretty pleased with how the top of the draft went. Outside of Anthony Davis, Drummond was just about the best fit next to Greg Monroe. It will allow Monroe to slide to his more natural PF position and Drummond’s shot blocking skills (just about the only real skills he has right now) will hide Monroe’s defensive shortcomings. But drafting Drummond this high comes with a lot of risk. Right now he’s a very similar player to DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan fell to the 2nd round of his draft due to the same concerns teams have about Drummond. So getting him at 9 is a much higher gamble than the Clippers took with Jordan. Drummond gets a lot of comparisons to Dwight Howard and Kwame Brown as his best and worse case scenarios. Kwame was not nearly the athlete Drummond is, so I feel like Jordan may be a better comparison. If Drummond can develop some low post skills, he could be really scary. But at this point, that’s still a big if.
Golden State Warriors: A
Drafted Players: SF Harrison Barnes (7), C Festus Ezeli (30), F Draymond Green (35), C Ognjen Kuzmic (52)
The Warriors have to be about as happy as the Pistons with their luck. Barnes not only fills a huge need for them at SF, but he also could have been a top-3 pick. For him to slide to 7 is great for the Warriors. Right now his skills are pretty duplicative of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, but if Barnes can improve his ball handling, it would allow him to make better use of him elite athleticism and become a more well-rounded offensive player. Ezeli could be a good replacement for Ekpe Udoh, who the Warriors lost in the Andrew Bogut trade. Getting Green at 35 is also great value, and his diverse skill set could be really useful.
Houston Rockets: B-
Drafted Players: SG Jeremy Lamb (12), SF Royce White (16), PF Terrence Jones (18)
Despite drafting some intriguing players, Houston has to be pretty upset with how Thursday panned out for them. They were making trades and spreading rumors the whole week, hoping to move up in the draft to either pick Drummond or to entice the Magic to trade them Dwight Howard. While that plan didn’t work, the Rockets came out with some players that could hold some trade value. Jeremy Lamb had a great career at UConn but flew under the radar in the draft process due to a high ankle sprain that kept him out of workouts. Royce White, if not for his anxiety, has the talent to be a top-10 pick, and Terrence Jones could also have been a lottery pick if not for some character questions. They could all be good players for the Rockets or be used in a trade to help bring a different good player to Houston.
Indiana Pacers: D
Drafted Players: C Miles Plumlee (26), SG Orlando Johnson (36, from Kings)
The Pacers really botched this draft. Plumlee has impressive athleticism, but that never really translated to production at Duke. With Arnett Moultrie and Marquis Teague still on the board, drafting Plumlee was not the best course of action. Orlando Johnson could be a decent player in the league, but he’ll be stuck behind a pretty deep backcourt in Indiana.
Los Angeles Clippers: F
Drafted Players: PF Furkan Aldemir (53, traded to Rockets)
The Clippers came out of the draft with no players. While they were able to pull off a deal to acquire Lamar Odom from the Mavericks, that wasn’t part of the draft, so I can’t give them credit here.
Los Angeles Lakers: C+
Drafted Players: G Darius Johnson-Odom (55, from Mavericks), C Robert Sacre (60)
I’m not sure either of these players will see significant minutes for the Lakers, but I’m giving LA this grade because of their choice not to trade away Pau Gasol. At least not yet. The trades floating out there included Gasol for Josh Smith (I can’t see how Kobe doesn’t strangle Smith halfway through the season after one too many idiotic three point attempts) or for a top 10 pick. With no real impact players after the top few picks, standing pat with Gasol was a smart move. The Lakers need to wait until they find the right deal and it didn’t come along by draft night.
Memphis Grizzlies: A-
Drafted Players: PG Tony Wroten Jr. (25)
Wroten has the potential to be taller version of Rajon Rondo. If you have the chance to get a player like that at 25, there’s almost no risk, since anyone else you would draft would likely be a marginal player anyways. Great job by Memphis to not only fill a need at PG, but to jump on a golden opportunity.
Miami Heat: D+
Drafted Players: C Justin Hamilton (45, from 76ers)
Typical Heat, refusing to build their team through the draft and leaving it all to Free Agency. Miami initially drafted Arnett Moultrie at 27, which would have been perfect for them, before trading him to Philadelphia. They probably were trying to avoid having to take on a guaranteed contract that comes with all first round picks, and are saving that money to make a run at Ray Allen in Free Agency. While that may end up working out for them, adding Moultrie to Miami’s old and weak frontcourt would have been a smart move.
Milwaukee Bucks: C
Drafted Players: PF John Henson (14), SG Doron Lamb (42)
I’m not really sure how Henson fits into this team. But the Bucks didn’t have a lot of other options. Milwaukee really could have used a center to fill the void created by Andrew Bogut’s departure, but with Drummond and Meyers Leonard off the board, and Tyler Zeller not much of an impact player, they didn’t have much of a choice. Henson’s elite skill is shot blocking, which just so happens to be the same as Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh. Not a bad pick, since Henson was the best available player, but I don’t see him adding anything to this team.
Minnesota Timberwolves: B-
Drafted Players: F Robbie Hummel (58)
While it’s nice to see a player like Hummel get drafted after fighting his way back from so many injuries, I’m not sure if he makes the team in Minnesota. The Wolves’ biggest get from the draft was trading their 18th pick to Houston for Chase Budinger, who will immediately be an upgrade at SG that Minnesota has long needed. His shooting and athleticism will help the T-Wolves tremendously. Since there was no SG at the board at 18 that could have filled that role, this was a solid trade for Minnesota.
New Orleans Hornets: A+
Drafted Players: PF Anthony Davis (1), G Austin Rivers (10), SF Darius Miller (46)
Just Davis alone makes this an A+ for the Hornets. He’s going to help that franchise rebound very quickly and strongly from the loss of Chris Paul. I’m skeptical of how well Rivers fits with this team. Generally if you aren’t sure whether to put a P or an S in front of the G for a players’ position, that’s not a good sign. Rivers was drafted as a point guard, but all his skills and his body of work in college suggest he’s really a shooting guard. And with Eric Gordon set to be the SG of the future, that could create issues. If Rivers can buy into coach Monty Williams and be a team player though, the Hornets could end up with two stars from this draft.
New York Knicks: C
Drafted Players: F Kostas Papanikolaou (48)
While Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire aren’t yet considered “aging stars,” their early playoff exit and the dominance of the Heat shows that the Knicks need to get better now if they want to compete. So while Papanikolaou has the best name in the draft and has wowed scouts with his defense, he won’t play in the NBA for a few years. New York really could have used some immediate help from the draft.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A
Drafted Players: F Perry Jones III (28)
I’m really surprised Jones fell this far, but late reports about some knee issues he has may have caused his drop. This is the perfect play for him to land though. Kevin Durant is really the perfect player for Jones to model himself after, given their similar builds and styles of play. Jones doesn’t have KD’s jump shot yet, but could still try to learn how Durant creates his own shot. But the winning culture of the Thunder, as well as Durant’s crazy work ethic, could motivate Jones to have a higher motor and become a more physical player. For the the Thunder to land a player once considered top-5 talent this late is a steal, regardless of the question marks.
Orlando Magic: B
Drafted Players: PF Andrew Nicholson (19), C Kyle O’Quinn (49)
While Nicholson and O’Quinn are both very solid players, I would have liked to see Orlando role the dice on someone with more potential. With Dwight Howard’s time in Orlando all but over, the Magic need to start thinking ahead. So while the players they drafted could both be role players on a playoff team, the Magic may not be a playoff team for much longer.
Philadelphia 76ers: B
Drafted Players: SF Moe Harkless (15), PF Arnett Moultrie (27, from Heat)
The Sixers added two more rotation players to their roster, making them an even deeper team. Harkless could well be Andre Iguodala’s replacement, as Philadelphia has been shopping their star as of late. Moultrie will provide athleticism, rebounding, and a mid-range shot to Philadelphia. No amazing talent here, but two players who could both make an impact.
Phoenix Suns: C-
Drafted Players: PG Kendall Marshall (13)
Steve Nash’s contract is up, so drafting a PG made sense for Phoenix. I’m not sure if Marshall was the best choice, though, especially this high in the draft. While his passing will keep Phoenix’s supporting cast involved, there will be nothing for them to support if Nash leaves. Marshall is no superstar in the making. He has an inconsistent outside shot and his lack of speed will hurt him on both ends of the floor. If they wanted a PG, I would have liked to see the Suns trade down a few spots and get Marshall there or gamble on someone with more potential like Wroten or Teague.
Portland Trailblazers: B
Drafted Players: PG Damian Lillard (6), C Meyers Leonard (11), SG Will Barton (40)
The only thing keeping this from being an A is the question of whether or not these players can compete against NBA caliber competition. Lillard was amazing in his solo workouts, reportedly missing only 2 shots during an entire workout, but he never played against a top 25 team his senior year, so no one knows if he can handle talented defenders. Leonard was also impressive during workouts thanks to his athleticism, but he’s also a high risk project. Both players could be great but they have yet to prove themselves. I love the Barton pick though. He averaged 18 points on 51% shooting and 8 rebounds this year at Memphis. While he’s skinny (6′-6″, 174 pounds), he knows how to play and how to score.
Sacramento Kings: A
Drafted Players: PF Thomas Robinson (5)
Robinson is an excellent fit in the frontcourt next to DeMarcus Cousins. Sacramento is going to make opposing bigs hate playing against them, given their strength and physicality. With the Bobcats convincing the whole world they would take Robinson at #2, for him to fall to the Kings was a welcome surprise in Sac-Town.
San Antonio Spurs: C+
Drafted players: SG Marcus Denmon (59)
When you’re only pick in the draft is the 2nd to last one, it’s hard to make much of an impression. But the Spurs grabbed an interesting player there. Denmon is short for a SG, but he could play a George Hill type role in San Antonio, given his shooting ability and ball security.
Toronto Raptors: B
Drafted Players: SG Terrence Ross (8), F Quincy Acy (37), SF Tomislav Zubcic (56)
Ross is an intriguing prospect. He’s a great shooter, an explosive athlete, and an above average defender. However he struggles handling the ball. If he can improve his dribbling he has all the tools to be a quality shooting guard. Quincy Acy is also a really good pick. He’s not going to contribute a lot offensively, but he has a high motor and can come off the bench to help rebound and block shots.
Utah Jazz: C+
Drafted Players: SF Kevin Murphy (47)
The Jazz got dealt a bad hand with this draft, losing the Warriors pick and their own first rounder. But they made the most of it by drafting Murphy. He’s a good shooter, and that alone could get him a spot on an NBA roster. But he’s also pretty athletic so he could help this Jazz team that could use some shooting and athleticism on the wing.
Washington Wizards: A-
Drafted Players: SG Bradley Beal (3), SF Tomas Satoransky (32)
Beal is the perfect fit for this Wizards team, not only giving them the shooter they so desperately needed, but also filling the starting SG spot. Paired with John Wall, the Wizards should have a great backcourt for years. Washington could have gotten better value in the 2nd round, but the Beal pick alone makes this a win.